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Peter's mainframe and swipes the saint list. The constancy of their compassion and the absolute decency with which they treated me and my family were truly awe-inspiring. But as I passed forever-smiling Kevin at reception and angelic Sally Hitchens, the head of the Nursing Department, it took everything I had to raise my head and manage a weak nod back at them.

Isn't that so nice? Merry Christmas, children! We get that a lot. I'm of Irish American extraction, but my kids—all adopted—run the gamut. My youngest's favorite show is The Magic School Bus. When we brought home the DVD, she exclaimed, "Daddy, it's a show about our family! Give me a fuzzy red wig and I'm a six-foot-two, two-hundred-pound Ms. I certainly don't look like what I am—a senior detective with the NYPD Homicide Division, a troubleshooter, negotiator, whatever's needed by whoever needs it. I was just about to sharply point out her ignorance when Brian, my oldest son, glanced at the smoke coming out of my ears and piped up.

All the way up to dreaded Five , my ten kids sang "Jingle Bells" with gusto, and as we piled out of the elevator, I could see a happy tear in the woman's eye. She wasn't here on vacation either, I realized, and my son had salvaged the situation better than a United Nations diplomat, certainly better than I ever could have.

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I wanted to kiss his forehead, but eleven-year-old boys have killed over less, so I just gave him a manly pat on the back as we turned down a silent, white corridor. Chrissy, with her arm around Shawna, her "best little pal" as she calls her, was into the second verse of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as we passed the nurses' station. The little ones could have been life-size Precious Moments figurines in their dresses and pigtailed hair, thanks to the extreme makeover work of their older sisters, Juliana and Jane. My kids are great.

Amazing, really. Like everyone else lately, they had gone so far above and beyond that it was hard to believe sometimes. At the end of the second hallway we turned, a woman, wearing a flowered dress over her ninety-pound frame and a Yankees cap over her hairless head, was sitting in a wheelchair at the open door of There were twenty-two arms when I got there.

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My wife was on morphine, codeine, and Percocet, but the only time I saw her completely pain- free was that first moment when we arrived, when she had all her ducklings pressed around her. Every day when we came to see her, she was dressed for company, her intravenous pain pack hidden away, a smile on her face. Bennett," my wife said, fighting the weariness in her glazed eyes, "I guess you should have married someone else.

It was the morning of the previous New Year's Day when Maeve had complained about some stomach pain. We'd thought it was just some holiday indigestion, but when it hadn't gone away in two weeks, her doctor wanted to do a laparoscopy just to be on the safe side. They found growths on both ovaries, and the biopsy came back with the worst news of all. A week later, a second biopsy of the lymph nodes they took out with her uterus reported even worse news. The cancer had spread, and it wasn't going to stop.

Manchester University Press - Alan Bennett

Tough Guy Detective! Maeve fought for her life and dignity like a banshee. She took on cancer the way the outclassed Jake LaMotta took on Sugar Ray Robinson in the fifties, with an epic ferocity not to be believed.

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She was a nurse herself and used every contact and every ounce of wisdom and experience she'd gained. She underwent so many chemo and radiation treatments, it put a life-threatening strain on her heart. But even after the radical attempts, after everything there was to be done had been done, the CAT scan revealed growing tumors in both lungs, her liver, and her pancreas.

A quote from LaMotta rang in my ears as I watched Maeve stand on her wobbling toothpick legs to prop herself up behind her wheelchair. Who needs them? If you all work together, you can keep the apartment running for me until I get back. Okay, team? Then here we go. Julia , you're on lifeguard duty for baths for the youngin's, and you're also responsible for getting them dressed in the morning. He runs a foundation that promotes healthy eating, and he has a garden in Hawaii. I ask him what he grows there. Interviewing the Bennetts is a little like being an audience member at an improv show, occasionally called on to offer prompts.

They don't just finish each other's sentences, they anticipate them; the brothers share several volumes' worth of inside jokes. Michael's wife, Pele, says they have operated in perfect sync since she met them in high school. Martellus, in fact, is 16 months younger than Michael. When their parents divorced in the early s, their father raised the kids by himself.

As boys, the brothers were inseparable. They spent summers on their grandparents' farm in Louisiana, where they fished, hunted birds with homemade bows and, according to Michael, "body-slammed cows. When Enron imploded from massive accounting fraud and Michael Sr.

Christopher B. Bennett

They slept on a bunk bed together. They played football together. On more than one occasion, they tag-teamed their childhood enemies together. Though both brothers played starring roles on their high school team -- at one point, they terrorized quarterbacks as bookends on the defensive line -- Martellus was the more sought-after prospect. He was a five-star tight end recruit and a nationally ranked basketball player coveted by the likes of Duke.

First Day of School!

The Bennetts can recall only one time in their lives when they felt isolated from each other. When Michael was 10 years old, his appendix ruptured. He was rushed to the ER for surgery and ended up spending several months in the hospital, undergoing multiple operations.

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As Michael tells the story, I glance at Martellus, who usually seems bemused whenever his older brother speaks. Instead, he's tensed up.

I ask whether he was afraid when Michael got sick. Martellus stops talking and bows his head for a moment, wiping tears from his cheeks. His brother squeezes his shoulder, then bows his head too. A minute or so passes before the younger brother speaks. I just didn't know," he says, his eyes wet with emotion. It took Michael over a year to fully recover from his surgeries, which left him with a deep, L-shaped scar. Martellus says the experience brought them even closer. If there's an unspoken rule in the NFL against roasting other players, the Bennetts break it every day.

What follows is a non-comprehensive list of their takes on various figures in football:. Martellus: "Eli? He's cool. He's like a normal white guy you see at the park trying to teach his kids how to play soccer and you know he can't really play soccer himself. Michael: "Tom Cruise. I feel like Pete Carroll is like Benjamin Button. He doesn't want to get old. He's getting younger every year. What is going on? Michael: "People love J.

Watt , but they don't really like J. Watt, know what I'm saying? Martellus: "The silver fox you never get to see but you hear about.

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You only get to take one photo, and you have to stay outside for a year just to get it. Martellus: "I hated Jason Witten. I appreciated his game, but I always hated him. It's like" -- Michael pauses, rolls his eyes back into his head and emits a noise that sounds like the throaty gasp of a goat that's just been slaughtered.